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More than a Lifetime Away: World Faces 100-Year Wait for Gender Parity

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The time it will take to close the gender gap narrowed to 99.5 years in 2019. While an improvement on 2018 – when the gap was calculated to take 108 years to close – it still means parity between men and women across health, education, work and politics will take more than a lifetime to achieve. This is the finding of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, published today.

According to the report, this year’s improvement can largely be ascribed to a significant increase in the number of women in politics. The political gender gap will take 95 years to close, compared to 107 years last year. Worldwide in 2019, women now hold 25.2% of parliamentary lower-house seats and 21.2% of ministerial positions, compared to 24.1% and 19% respectively last year.

Politics, however, remains the area where least progress has been made to date. With Educational Attainment and Health and Survival much closer to parity on 96.1% and 95.7% respectively, the other major battlefield is economic participation. Here, the gap widened in 2019 to 57.8% closed from 58.1% closed in 2018. Looking simply at the progress that has been made since 2006 when the World Economic Forum first began measuring the gender gap, this economic gender gap will take 257 years to close, compared to 202 years last year.

Economic Gap Widening

The report attributes the economic gender gap to a number of factors. These include stubbornly low levels of women in managerial or leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income. Women have been hit by a triple whammy: first, they are more highly represented in many of the roles that have been hit hardest by automation, for example, retail and white-collar clerical roles.

Second, not enough women are entering those professions – often but not exclusively technology-driven – where wage growth has been the most pronounced. As a result, women in work too often find themselves in middle-low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Third, perennial factors such as lack of care infrastructure and lack of access to capital strongly limit women’s workforce opportunities. Women spend at least twice as much time on care and voluntary work in every country where data is available, and lack of access to capital prevents women from pursuing entrepreneurial activity, another key driver of income.

“Supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive and resilient societies around the world. For business, too, diversity will be an essential element to demonstrate that stakeholder capitalism is the guiding principle. This is why the World Economic Forum is working with business and government stakeholders to accelerate efforts to close the gender gap,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Could the “Role Model Effect” close the gender gap?

One positive development is the possibility that a “role model effect” may be starting to have an impact in terms of leadership and possibly also wages. For example, in eight of the top 10 countries this year, high political empowerment corresponds with high numbers of women in senior roles. Comparing changes in political empowerment from 2006 to 2019 shows that improvements in political representation occurred simultaneously with improvements in women in senior roles in the labour market.

While this is a correlation, not a causation, in OECD countries, where women have been in leadership roles for relatively longer and social norms started to change earlier, role model effects could contribute to shaping labour market outcomes.

Gender Inequality in the Jobs of the Future

Possibly the greatest challenge preventing the economic gender gap from closing is women’s under-representation in emerging roles. New analysis conducted in partnership with LinkedIn shows that women are, on average, heavily under-represented in most emerging professions. This gap is most pronounced across our “cloud computing” job cluster where only 12% of all professionals are women. The situation is hardly better in “engineering” (15%) and “Data and AI” (26%), however women do outnumber men in two fast-growing job clusters, “content production” and “people and culture”.

According to our data, this reality presents leaders intent on addressing the gender gap in the future with two key challenges. The first and most obvious challenge is that more must be done to equip women with the skills to perform the most in-demand jobs. Indeed, there is an economic cost of not doing so as skills shortages in these professions hold back economic growth.

The second is possibly more complex. According to our data, even where women have the relevant in-demand skillset they are not always equally represented. In data science, for example, 31% of those with the relevant skillset are women even though only 25% of roles are held by women. Likewise, there is no gender gap in terms of skills when it comes to digital specialists, however only 41% of these jobs are performed by women.

These facts point to three key strategies that must be followed to hardwire gender equality into future workforces: to ensure women are equipped in the first place – either through skilling or reskilling – with disruptive technical skills; to follow-up by enhancing diverse hiring; and to create inclusive work cultures.

“Insights from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can help policymakers, business leaders, and educators understand and prepare for how women will be represented in the future workforce. Our data shows that meaningful action is needed to build the systems and talent pipelines required to close the gender gap in tech and ensure women have an equal role in building the future,” said Allen Blue, Co-Founder and Vice-President, Product Strategy, LinkedIn.

What the Forum is Doing to Close the Gender Gap

The World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society aims to close economic gender gaps through both in-country and global industry work. Through Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators, the Forum drives change by setting up action coalitions between relevant ministries and the largest employers in the country to increase female labour force participation, the number of women in leadership positions, closing wage gaps and preparing women for jobs of the future. Additionally, the global business commitment on Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work mobilizes businesses to commit to hiring 50% women for their five highest growth roles between now and 2022. Finally, the Forum has committed to at least double the current percentage of women participants at the Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, by 2030.

“To get to parity in the next decade instead of the next two centuries, we will need to mobilize resources, focus leadership attention and commit to targets across the public and private sectors. Business-as-usual will not close the gender gap – we must take action to achieve the virtuous cycle that parity creates in economies and societies,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum.

The Global Gender Gap in 2020

Nordic countries continue to lead the way to gender parity. Iceland (87.7%) remains the world’s most gender-equal country, followed by Norway (2nd, 84.2%), Finland (3rd, 83.2%) and Sweden (4th, 82.0%). Other economies in the top 10 include Nicaragua (5th, 80.4%), New Zealand (6th, 79.9%), Ireland (7th, 79.8%), Spain (8th, 79.5%), Rwanda (9th, 79.1%) and Germany (10th, 78.7%).

Among the countries that improve the most this year are Spain in Western Europe, Ethiopia in Africa, Mexico in Latin America, and Georgia in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These countries all improved their positions in the ranking by more than 20 places, largely driven by improvements in the political empowerment dimension.

Western Europe is the best performing region for the 14th consecutive year. With an average score of 76.7% (out of 100), the region has now closed 77% of its gender gap, further improving from last edition. At the current pace, it will take 54 years to close the gap in Western Europe. The region is home to the four most gender-equal countries in the world, namely in order Iceland (87.7%), Norway (84.2%) and Finland (83.2%) and Sweden (82.0%), and one country (Spain, 8th) is among the most improved countries this year.

The North America region regroups the United States (72.4%, 53rd) and Canada (77.2%, 19th). Both countries’ performances are stalling, especially in terms of economic participation and opportunity. At this rate it will take 151 years to close the gap.

The Eastern Europe and Central Asia region has closed 71.5% of its gender gap so far with a slight improvement since last year. To date the time to fully close its overall gender gap is estimated to be 107 years. The region has fully closed its educational gap and has improved women’s political empowerment which however remains only closed at 15%. 21 of the 26 countries in this region have closed at least 70% and the top-ranked country, Latvia, 11th has closed 78.5% of its gap.

The Latin America and the Caribbean region has closed 72.1% of its gender gap so far, progressing 1 percentage points since last year. At this rate it will take 59 years to close the gender gap. The most noticeable improvement is on the Political empowerment dimension where the region closes its gap by 5 percentage points. Led my Nicaragua that has closed 80.4% of its gap (5th), 15 of the 24 countries covered by the report have improved their overall scores. Among the most improved countries, Mexico reduced its gender gap by 3.4 points on a year-over-year basis.

The Sub-Saharan Africa region has closed 68.0% of its gender gap so far. This result is a significant progress since last edition which leads to revise down the number of years it will take to close the gender gap, which is now estimated at 95 years. The region is home of one of the top-ten countries overall Rwanda (9th) while another 21 countries have improved their performances since last year, including Ethiopia (82nd) one of the best improved this year globally.

The East Asia and Pacific Region has closed 69% of the overall gender gap. If the region maintains the same rate of improvement as the 2006-2019 period, and given the current gap, it will take another 163 years to close the gender gap, the most time of any region. The region has improved on three of the four gender gap dimensions and has been the only region where political empowerment gap has widened (16% closed so far). The best performing country is New Zealand 6th, which has closed 79.9% of its gap. It is followed by the Philippines 16th with 78.1% closed and Lao PDR, 43rd with a score of 73.1%.

South Asia region has closed two thirds of its gender gap. The region’s gender gap is the second largest despite a progress of 6 points over the past 14 years. If the rate of progress of the past 15 years was to continue it will take 71 years to close the region’s gender gap. However, in contrast with the overall’s performance, the region’s Economic participation and opportunity gap widens this year. Bangladesh (50th) leads the region, while the second ranked country, Nepal, lags several positions behind (101th)

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region obtains the lowest score (61.1%) despite having narrowed its gap by 0.5 points since last year. Assuming the same rate of progress going forward it will take approximately 150 years to close the gender gap in the MENA region. The two most highly ranked countries in the region are Israel (64th) with a closed gap to date of 71.8% and the United Arab Emirates (120th) with a score of 65.5%. 15 of the 19 countries in this region rank 130th or lower.

Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society

The Global Gender Gap Report is a flagship publication of the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society. The Platform provides the opportunity to advancing prosperous, inclusive and equitable economies and societies. It focuses on co-creating a new vision in three interconnected areas: growth and competitiveness; education, skills and work; and equality and inclusion. Working together, stakeholders deepen their understanding of complex issues, shape new models and standards and drive scalable, collaborative action for systemic change.

Over 100 of the world’s leading companies and 100 international, civil society and academic organizations currently work through the Platform to promote new approaches to competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution economy; deploy education and skills for tomorrow’s workforce; build a new pro-worker and pro-business agenda for jobs; and integrate equality and inclusion into the new economy, aiming to reach 1 billion people with improved economic opportunities.

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New Social Compact

Remote Learning during the pandemic: Lessons from today, principles for tomorrow 

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Education systems around the world reacted to COVID-19 by closing schools and rolling out remote learning options for their students as an emergency response.  New World Bank analysis of early evidence reveals that while remote learning has not been equally effective everywhere, hybrid learning is here to stay.

Going forward, for remote learning to deliver on its potential, the analysis shows the need to ensure strong alignment between three complementary components: effective teaching, suitable technology, and engaged learners.

“Hybrid learning – which combines in-person and remote learning – is here to stay. The challenge will be the art of combining technology and the human factor to make hybrid learning a tool to expand access to quality education for all,” emphasized Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education.  “Information technology is only a complement, not a substitute, for the conventional teaching process – particularly among preschool and elementary school students. The importance of teachers, and the recognition of education as essentially a human interaction endeavor, is now even clearer.”

The twin reports, Remote Learning During the Global School Lockdown: Multi-Country Lessons and Remote Learning During COVID-19: Lessons from Today, Principles for Tomorrow, stress that three components are critical for remote learning to be effective:

  • Prioritizing effective teachers: a teacher with high subject content knowledge, skills to use technology, and appropriate pedagogical tools and support is more likely to be effective at remote instruction.
  • Adopting suitable technology: availability of technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for effective remote learning.
  • Ensuring learners are engaged: for students to be engaged, contextual factors such as the home environment, family support, and motivation for learning must be well aligned.

The reports found that many countries struggled to ensure take-up and some even found themselves in a remote learning paradox: choosing a distance learning approach unsuited to the access and capabilities of a majority of their teachers and students.

“Emerging evidence on the effectiveness of remote learning during COVID-19 is mixed at best,” said Cristóbal Cobo, World Bank Senior Education and Technology Specialist, and co-author of the two reports. “Some countries provided online digital learning solutions, although a majority of students lacked digital devices or connectivity, thus resulting in uneven participation, which further exacerbated existing inequalities. Other factors leading to low student take-up are unconducive home environments; challenges in maintaining children’s engagement, especially that of younger children; and low digital literacy of students, teachers, and/or parents.”

“While pre-pandemic access to technology and capabilities to use it differed widely within and across countries, limited parental engagement and support for children from poor families has generally hindered their ability to benefit from remote learning,” stressed Saavedra.

Despite these challenges with remote learning, this can be an unprecedented opportunity to leverage its potential to reimagine learning and to build back more effective and equitable education systems. Hybrid learning is part of the solution for the future to make the education process more effective and resilient. 

The reports offer the following five principles to guide country efforts going forward:

Ensure remote learning is fit-for-purpose. Countries should choose modes of remote learning that are suitable to the access and utilization of technology among both teachers and students, including digital skills, and that teachers have opportunities to develop the technical and pedagogical competencies needed for effective remote teaching. 

Use technology to enhance the effectiveness of teachers. Teacher professional development should develop the skills and support needed to be an effective teacher in a remote setting.

Establish meaningful two-way interactions. Using the most appropriate technology for the local context, it is imperative to enable opportunities for students and teachers to interact with each other with suitable adaptations to the delivery of the curriculum.

Engage and support parents as partners in the teaching and learning process. It is imperative that parents (families) are engaged and supported to help students access remote learning and to ensure both continuity of learning and protect children’s socioemotional well-being.

Rally all actors to cooperate around learning. Cooperation across all levels of government; as well as partnerships between the public and private sector, and between groups of teachers and school principals; is vital to the effectiveness of remote learning and to ensure that the system continues to adapt, learn, and improve in an ever-changing remote learning landscape.

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Youth embody ‘spirit’ of 21st century more than parents

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Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other global challenges, children and youth are nearly 50 per cent more likely than older people to believe that the world is becoming a better place, according to the results of a landmark intergenerational poll published on Thursday. 

The international survey was conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gallup, the global analytics and advice firm, and has been released ahead of World Children’s Day on 20 November. 

The Changing Childhood Project is the first poll of its kind to ask multiple generations for their views on the world and what it is like to be a child today.  

Part of the solution 

Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director, said that despite numerous reasons to be pessimistic, children and young people refuse to see the world through the bleak lens of adults. 

“Compared to older generations, the world’s young people remain hopeful, much more globally minded, and determined to make the world a better place,” she added.  

“Today’s young people have concerns for the future but see themselves as part of the solution”. 

More than 21,000 people in 21 countries participated in the survey, which was conducted across two age cohorts – 15-24 years old, and age 40 and up – and during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hopeful, not naïve 

Nationally representative surveys were undertaken in countries across all regions – Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America – and income levels.  

 The findings revealed young people are also more likely to believe childhood has improved, and that healthcare, education and physical safety are better today when compared with their parents’ generation. 

However, despite their optimism, youth are far from naïve.  The poll showed they want to see action to address the climate emergency.  At the same time, they are skeptical about the information they consume on social media, and struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety.  

This generation is also more likely to see themselves as global citizens, and they are more willing to embrace international cooperation to combat threats such as the pandemic. 

Aware of risks 

The survey also found children and young people are generally more trusting of national governments, scientists and international news media as sources of accurate information.  

They are also aware of the problems the world is facing, with nearly 80 per cent seeing serious risks for children online, such as exposure to violent or sexually explicit content, or being bullied. 

Young people want faster progress in the fight against discrimination, more cooperation among countries, and for decision-makers to listen to them. 

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed who are aware of climate change believe Governments should take significant action to address it.  The share rises to 83 per cent in low- and lower-middle countries, where climate impacts are set to be greatest. 

21st century citizens 

In practically every country, large majorities of youth said their countries would be safer from COVID-19 and other threats if Governments would work together, rather than on their own. 

They have also demonstrated stronger support for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) rights, with young women at the forefront for equality. 

The survey also revealed a strong alignment between the two generations, including on the issues of climate, education, global collaboration, though some of the deepest divides occurred around optimism, global mindedness and recognition of historical progress.   

“While this research paints a nuanced view of the generational divide, a clear picture emerges: Children and young people embody the spirit of the 21st century far more readily than their parents,” said Ms. Fore.  

“As UNICEF prepares to mark its 75th anniversary next month, and ahead of World Children’s Day, it is critical we listen to young people directly about their well-being and how their lives are changing”.

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Seva, a book that is here to heal the world

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It was early in February this year that I visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Walking outside the beautiful golden studded Gurudwara, I couldn’t help but feel awe at the langar that was being served. Prepared for lakhs of devotees everyday. Imagine a kitchen that is equipped to feed around one lakh people everyday, what goes on in the minds of people working at the Golden Temple tirelessly to feed one lakh devotees? There is really only one value behind their actions – Seva. Seva literally translates to helping others and seems simple at the outset. But to understand it deeply, you need to read Jasreen Mayal Khanna’s Seva published earlier this year.

Seva – Sikh secrets on how to be good in the real world by Jasreen Mayal Khanna is a book that is here to heal the world. It is a much needed book during the current times and promotes the values of helping others while outlining basic things that we often forget to do – say thank you daily, embrace joy, work harder than you pray, practice equality at home, help someone everyday, be brave, learn to laugh at yourself and live in Chardi Kala. While other points might seem easy and direct, the last one, Chardi Kala might not be obviously understandable to many outside the Sikh Community. What is Chardi Kala? It is the mental state of eternal optimism and joy. The Sikh Community is popularly known across the world for helping others and Jasreen Mayal Khanna explains more about the Sikh practice of Seva, serving others.

For a few, doing Seva comes naturally because it has been taught to them since childhood. This is especially valid for people from the Sikh Community who, as Khanna tells us in her book, are taught to contribute towards community service from a very young age. For some, they need to ingrain Seva in their life to lead a more balanced and happy life. We often forget that the individual and the community are woven into a beautifully intricate fabric that relies on each other. We are only reminded of how interconnected we are to each other during times of crisis. The COVID 19 pandemic has been a great reminder about how we need each other to survive. Friends, family and complete strangers helping out each other during times of the pandemic has been revolutionarily eye opening. The truth is that we should not need a pandemic to make us realise how interconnected we are. Books like Seva are an ode to that fabric of interconnectedness that is often forgotten in the world today. With ancient Sikh secrets and promoted values of happiness, the book heals readers in ways more than one. You quite literally need to read this book to lead a more balanced life.

While many Indians have been reading books like Ikigai talking about Japanese secrets to life, books like Seva hit far closer to home for Indians. Reading the book is also a testament to secularism since you can understand more about a community that you possibly interact with daily. Moreover, the book also gives you the opportunity to understand more about the values of the community that you can easily pick things from. Seva is not just a read for Indians, but deserves to be popularised across the world. The book will hit the UK market in May 2022.

“I had my first baby in the first wave of Covid. Through the pandemic, I kept seeing examples of Sikhs who were risking their own lives to help absolute strangers. And while I was very proud, I was not overly surprised because doing seva is second nature to Sikhs. I knew that this is a story that the world needs to hear, that my son Azad needs to hear. I wrote Seva because it is, in a way, the solution to the problems of modern life. Read it to believe it. “, Khanna says rightly. She is quite right about this, you need to read it to believe it.

I hope you can enjoy the book with some traditional Sikh Panjiri, the most delicious sweet made from wheat flour and dried nuts.

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